Iranian authorities have been given 45 days to prove they have got no Evil intention even deep in their minds. Their decision whether to fully cooperate with the UN watchdogs or not might have considerable effects on the lives of millions of people, both in Iran and other countries in the region.
Before giving comments on how our politicians—or even ourselves—should react to the recent IAEA resolution in Vienna, I think we should have a glance to see what this agenda is all about.
What are the essentials to make a bomb? Does Iran have them?
In simple words (and up to my limited knowledge of physics), a few things are needed for both civilian and military nuclear programs, known as "dual use" facilities:
Fissile material, mainly Uranium and Plutonium, is perhaps the first thing one—a government seeking bomb!—should think about. Due to official Iranian statistics, there are three Uranium mines in central Iran with combined reserves of 800m tonnes that makes the country independent at least in its raw material needs.
Enrichment is the next step. For every 1000 tonnes of Uranium ore, only 2 tonnes of metal is produced of which less than 1% is fissile Uranium. In power plants, normally, Uranium should contain about 20% of this fissile one, while in bombs the ratio must reach a higher level of 80-90%. One way of "enriching" (up to this level) is "gas centrifuge." A group of IAEA scientists visiting Natanz in February 2003 reported "a series of gas centrifuges in an underground complex that may be a pilot plant for a much bigger system..."
Finally, many other industries must be there to fulfill a sophisticated atomic program. Heavy-water, for example, could be used for soaking up the excess neutrons and thus, a heavy-water plant may indicate a weapons-grade enrichment. The Arak heavy-water plant is another area of concern for the UN watchdogs.
What about Bushehr plant?
According to the US officials, satellite pictures show continued development of a nuclear reactor at Bushehr. The reactors at Bushehr were originally commissioned by the Shah in 1974 from a German company. The project was suspended due to the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and was resurrected with Russians' help after the end of Iran-Iraq war. While the light-water reactor will be completed by 2004, the Russians keep claiming that these reactors cannot produce weapons-grade Plutonium. This of course cannot relax the US authorities who are hardly satisfied with their previous policies in supplying the same reactors to North Korea. The US opposes the project on the grounds that Iran already has five small nuclear reactors, which they believe is more than adequate for its needs.
And what aggravated the situation?
In the last series of visits made by UN inspectors last month, they reported signs of highly enriched Uranium in Natanz. They believe that the pilot plant could end as an extended site with thousands of centrifuges by 2004. Iranian officials keep repeating that the samples taken by IAEA come from nuclear equipment that was contaminated when it was bought a decade ago for civilian purposes but they do not say who sold it, only that the whole thing was through an intermediary company. After the report, despite lobbying by Russia and EU, Iran refused to sign the additional protocol to the non-proliferation treaty until Mohammed El Baradei voiced exasperation with Iran last week and condemned its attempts to obstruct UN inspections. The speech made by El Beradei initiated a new series of attacks by the US which made the worsening international crisis escalate and led to the ultimatum by IAEA Board of Governors.
Anyway, UN (or the US?) has ruled. Delighted or depressed, angry or calm, this is the fact we should face and try not to confront with the whole universe. But there exists a final question, at least for me: How far shall we* keep on compromising?
* Would it be an ultra-pessimistic way of thinking if by this "we", I mean every nation but the United States??